Monitoring Product Quality in a Legal Marijuana Market

In July  2014, the State of Washington opened a legal marijuana market, that allowed for legal growth and production of marijuana and marijuana related products as well as the sale of marijuana products for recreational use ranging from typical flower products, edibles, medical products, and cartridges for vaporizing and oils. Included in the development of this system is a database that tracks each product sold from the grower down the supply chain to the the consumer. The database is managed by the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board and is openly available through their website.

Data exists for every transaction along the supply chain. The big question is, where to begin? Washington State Policy Makers, the Liquor and Cannabis Board, Researchers, and Economists are all interested in the development and impacts of this new legal market. Over the past two years, much of the focus of these decision makers has been on retail sales and understanding how prices have fluctuated over time. Less understood is upstream market behavior in the supply chain before it reaches retail stores.

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What the Data Look Like

Two and half years of transactions have resulted in 25 gigs of data, stored in 28 tables, capturing transactions along the supply chain, including transfers from growers to processors to retailers to consumers, as well as to labs checking product for quality. This wide variety of information leads to a wide variety of questions, which must be narrowed down for our analysis.


Understanding Market & Testing Process

There are four major stakeholders involved in the market -- producers, labs, consumers, and Washington State. 

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Analysis of Product Quality

One particular policy concern is monitoring the quality of marijuana products. One of the major arguments prior to legalization was that a legal marijuana market could control the quality of the product, ensuring that only safe products were available to consumers.

From the onset of this legal market, the state has required lab testing for products. Our question is, is that process working? Does the current lab quality testing system ensure that products sold in stores are safe?



This portion of the analysis on this dataset was conducted by Krista Kinnard and Lauren Renaud.

We are grateful for the work from the rest of the Heinz College Systems Team: Yutian Gao, Ellie Najewicz, Imane Fahli, Yilun Bao, and our advisor, Professor Jon Caulkins.
We also want to thank the RAND Team, Beau Kilmer, Steve Davenport, Rosanna Smart, and Greg Midgette, Peter Corier from the Liquor and Cannabis Board, and our wider Heinz College Advisory Board for their guidance and assistance on this ongoing project.

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